Thursday, June 30, 2011

Study groups

I woke up late. -__- I hate it when I do this. But good thing I don't have class till 1:20!!

Yesterday, I dropped my Korean-American History class so now I only have two classes! Everyone else seems to be in three classes. Some because you become eligible for an academic scholarship, some because that's how they can transfer credits. I opted to only have to deal with two classes so I can at least relax and not stress like I usually do during the semester.

My books for my courses: the two on the right were 49,000 KRW together, which everyone freaked out about. Then, we all realized that it would be much more expensive in the US. We're so spoiled right now. (My Korean studies book was about 25,000 KRW)

I had lunch with 강미 이모 (my aunt) at a Vietnamese restaurant. It tasted really different from what I'm used to back in Reno. There was pineapple fried rice, which was amazing! Putting pineapple in fried rice is such a good idea. The pho, however, tasted weird. The broth maybe just wasn't as good because the noodles were fine. I have no idea...

After, I went to Intro to Korean Studies. The professor went through about 100 years of history in a little more than an hour and a half. My notes are illegible and I felt like I developed (acute onset) arthritis in my hand. It was all interesting though. I know close to nothing about Korean history so it was great to finally see that I would be learning some.

The placement test results were posted after class and I saw that I tested into Intermediate 2 (one higher than I expected). After class started, I realized that I was probably the least skilled speaker in the class and I wondered how I was placed into this class... But I guess I'm good at grammar? I don't even know about that. We'll see how the class goes. I guess language class are supposed to push me rather than be too easy. Hopefully it works out. I met a couple people in the class and Naomi, one of the girls that sat next to me, and I decided to be study partners! We both felt that we'd need to study a lot to catch up in the course.

The hardest thing about Korean Language classes is that all of it is in Korean. So when the teacher asks us, "What does [word] mean?" we have to explain it in Korean. My vocabulary probably isn't big enough to do that...

After class, a lot of people were really hungry so we went to a food place less than a block away from campus. They served tons of cheap food and we didn't have to spend lots of time walking to Sinchon. I had 돌솥비빔밥 which is a bibimbap (rice with a mixture of vegetables and sauce) in a stone pot. The rice on the bottom gets crispy, which is the best part. (Unless they add water to it and then I don't feel like eating it anymore)

Alex, Maggie and I decided to study for our Intro to Korean Studies class together since the professor warned us that the reading would be dense. And that it was. Danny, who I'd met earlier, Sara, and Nima (sp?) joined us to study. They were in different classes but since we were headed to somewhere relatively quiet, they tagged along.

Those who have studied in groups with me know how this story is gonna end. We talked and talked and studied intermittently. It should have been the other way around, but Nima had so many interesting stories (about himself) that we frequently got sidetracked. But it was well worth it. I have plenty of time to do the reading.

I've included pictures of the view outside my dorm window. It's super rainy if you can't tell. =(

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

First day of classes

First of all, American paper is fatter and shorter than Korean paper. I'm annoyed because when I put papers in my notebook's folders, they stick out the top. =(

The first day of class is usually a "let's go over the syllabus and introduce ourselves" day. Yesterday was just that.

I went to my first class at 11am (last semester I had class at 8am so I was relieved to have this schedule). It was Korean-American History, an extremely narrow course. The professor was great and we started watching the movie The Grace Lee Project after he had shared with us some statistics about Koreans and Korean-Americans. The class seemed great, but I was already lost. He was throwing around vocabulary (probably commonly used in historical discourse) that I was unfamiliar with. I haven't taken a history class since the summer before junior year in high school (Government doesn't count) so...I'm a little rusty on history. There was already a ton of reading to do and essays to write. Not my kind of class unfortunately.

On the way to my next class, I got lost. I was with Jason, but we got lost. We found the building pretty quickly (the map made the walk look huge) but once inside it was too confusing. In our confusion, we found Justin, who, it turns out, was heading to the same class as me. We followed the signs pointing to our room numbers, but those weren't our rooms. Turns out, there are two sides of the building and the room numbers listed were actually offices and not classrooms.

Anyways, I made it with plenty of time to spare before my next class. The professor started the class a little early, which made attendance really hectic as people showed up late and he was halfway down the list and wasn't sure how to go about accounting for everyone.

He didn't go over any material in the course, but rather, talked about himself. Here he was, this white dude, talking about his experiences in Korea and it was like he was Korean, just white on the outside. I think he was trying to legitimize himself before attempting to teach us. He warned that the class would be depressing, but that he'd take us out for dinner and drinks (what!). And then he let us out early.

Because we were let out early, we decided to find books. Mao, Justin, Diane (who I had just met in class) and I decided to wander around to find the copy center to get our book. It was then we ran into Maggie and Irene, who were also trying to find books and got lost. We wandered around until we finally decided to go to the teaching support center to find someone who knew the way.

When we got to the copy center, we found our book. Yay! It was only 20,000 KRW? It was around there and I don't remember the price exactly. But, it was a book that looked like it would cost about $100 in the US. If only all my textbooks could be this cheap!

We were all headed to the placement test that was scheduled to take place a little after class was supposed to let out so we headed over. When we walked into the auditorium, we found a random girl practicing her drumming. She insisted that we stay and wait while she practices so we did only to find out that her drumming would make our conversations hard.

For the placement test, we were randomly split up into different classrooms. And there, I felt like I was taking a Korean Mandelbrot test. I realize that's a bad example as not many people have taken the Mandelbrot...but it felt like it was designed to make you feel stupid. The first couple of pages were easy and I thought to myself, "I can do this!" And then as I went on, I didn't feel that anymore.

There was also an oral part of the exam. I walked in and suddenly forgot how to speak, it felt. After speaking English all day, it was hard for me to revert back. Had I taken it while I was in "full Korean mode" (which was probably around Saturday as I couldn't form English sentences with correct grammar) I may have been less embarrassed. Oh well. I'd rather test into an easier class than a harder one where I'm completely lost.

I rested after that for about an hour and a half and went out to dinner with Justin and Maggie and Ian. Maggie brought along Sara and Eileen. And from there, our group only got larger. Eileen had met a local Korean, Hunjae, on the bus on the way to Yonsei because she got lost, so she invited him to eat with us. That was great because all the ordering was assigned to him this time and he was good at finding a place to eat. Alex and Daniel, two friends of Maggie? Eileen? Asked if they could join us to eat, and of course, we said yes. So all nine of us went on down to eat. Eating is a good time to get to know each other.

I learned that Maggie is an international business major from Canada, Eileen is also studying business and from Canada too (!), Sara is studying philosophy in Seattle, Justin is from a liberal arts school in Washington where he gets no grades (-_-), Hunjae is an electrical engineering graduate student at Yonsei (so he's super smart and super old, haha), Alex is studying biology and is pre-med and is in a 7-year medical program (LIKE ME! WHAT?), and Daniel is a rising college freshman (I found someone younger than me!).

We all ate 삼겹살 (a Korean version of bacon, essentially) and had a blast eating it. No pictures, unfortunately...but you'll have to just trust me when I say it was amazing.

Afterwards, we decided to go to 노래방 (which literally translating to song room), which is a room where you sing karaoke (frequently abbreviated NRB). We met up with Daniel and Alex's friends (Danny, James, and Rita) and we all packed into one room where we sang for an hour. That's at least what we thought until they kept adding free time for us! It's a ploy to get us to buy more drinks...which we didn't. So we just got free time, haha.

 Here's a picture of the room. The karaoke program had songs from the US and all over the world. It was surprisingly up to date: it had the "Lazy Song."

Me, Maggie, and Eileen in NRB. I took this one surprisingly well. I usually chop off people's heads in pictures that I have to take myself.

We headed back to the dorms because it was already 11pm. People had homework to do and it was only the first day of school. Don't screw up now. We'll see how everyone's feeling when midterms roll around.

This morning I dropped my Korean-American History class because I'm a wimp and don't think I can handle it. A class with mandatory reading...doesn't sit well with me. I'm a science major. Our reading is never mandatory. ^^ I'm going with two classes and I get to find out my placement test results today. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Moving in officially and Sinchon (2 of 2)

So I guess some time later is hour later...

I came back from the YISS office to settle my account balance so that's all good to go. I hope. I'll wait till I get an invoice back. -_- (not an Asian smiley face)

I have pictures of where I will be living for the next six weeks! Hopefully classes create a way for me to meet new people.

 How much space is in between our beds. -__-

 My side of the room. (Tried to make my bed before taking the picture... it was the morning...)

 An unflattering picture of the toilet. The shower is on the other side of the room.

 Not much space. So, I have to leave my clothes in the suitcase and pull it out and fish stuff out of there. There aren't sufficient drawers...but there's at least a closet!

 I don't understand this desk chair. Wheels in the front, but not the back?

 Window, but no balcony because I'm on the seventh floor? Every other floor has balconies... =(

 Desk/bed area. Ah! There are clothes on the bed.

 Cleanest desk I'm sure I've ever had. I haven't lived here long enough to mess it up. And notice, even though Korea claims that they're not compatible with Macs...I'm still using mine. ^^

 Entrance to shower area. There's a phone here that can receive calls, but not make them. Hmm...

 Since it wasn't raining today, I decided to take advantage of it and take some photos outside. This is the outside of the entrance to SK Global House (where I'm staying, yes).

The floors (all have balconies except Floor 7...)

After moving in, I went out to dinner/ice cream with Mao, Ian, Kat, and Mercury. The first three are here with USAC, like me, and Mercury was Kat's friend she met through Facebook. The original plan was to find ice cream, but since Kat and Ian hadn't eaten, we decided dinner should be a priority. We found a place to eat food after wandering around Sinchon, the area near Yonsei. I was the only one who spoke any Korean so the ordering of food was assigned to me. Kat and Ian ended up eating a sweet and sour food dish, which was definitely more Chinese than Korean.

Food is always a way to bond. I found out Mercury is also a biochem major so now we're biochem buddies! A lot of people here are more humanities oriented in their majors (international affairs, political science, East Asian studies, etc.) so finding a fellow biochem major was great!

On our way back, we stopped at a street vendor selling ice cream waffles. Literally, it was an ice cream waffle taco. Three scoops of ice cream inside a folded waffle. I wasn't hungry so I skipped out on this, but helped everyone order and figure out the flavors. I feel like I know a ton of Korean because of this. But in reality, I don't.

I start classes today so that should be an adventure. Hopefully they're all great. I'm still thinking about dropping one. I'm currently signed up for Korean-American History, Introduction to Korean Studies (which sounds kinda like modern history without the paper writing - my kind of class!!), and whatever language class I test into. I also have to take the language placement test. I read like a I'm currently learning with Hooked on Phonics, Korean edition. -____- So we'll see how it goes!

Moving in officially and Sinchon (1 of 2)

Moving into the dorms was slightly difficult, but probably less so than it would have been had I moved all my stuff in at check-in. But we'll get to that later.

Yesterday Jung-soo and I went to Garden 5, a department store/mall/experience. It's called the Garden 5 because it has five different buildings: one for electronics, one for "young people's" clothes, one for other clothes, one for food? etc. I can't remember them all. But, at the top, there's a movie theater. We went to see Lincoln Lawyer.

The movie was really good. I thought it was really well done. The reason we picked it was because it was the only one with the audio in English. We wanted to see Kung Fu Panda 2, but it was dubbed. Sad.

Afterwards, we went back home to move all my stuff out. It was about an hour long car ride (which was actually shorter than expected) and we got to the dorms. I said good-bye to Jung-soo's mom, and she assured me that we'd meet again. =) Jung-soo helped me move in my stuff into my room. The two suitcases and my oversized backpack (if you've seen it, you know it's true) were quite cumbersome. But we finally got to my room to move all my stuff in.

It was then we realized the room was small. There's plenty of space to sleep and do what is necessary, but the floor space is pretty limited.

I need to go take care of some money issues (tuition) so I'll actually finish this blog post later today--with pictures! I promise. I know the pictures have been lacking...

Monday, June 27, 2011

Slow day, fast weather

Yesterday was a slow day. Nothing was planned and Jung-soo was in and out of the house so there wasn't much to do really.

I stayed home because there was a typhoon warning, which cleared up by the end of the day. I guess it was pretty windy in other parts of Seoul, but not really here. So that was at least nice.

We went for lunch at a 냉면 (cold noodle) place and ordered enough for 7 people. Somehow...we finished it all. Jung-soo's family is pro at eating well, haha! Afterwards we went to tomntoms coffee.

It was a very chill day and after eating dinner at home, we just watched movies. Really straightforward and not too exciting. Today I move into the dorms though so we'll see what happens!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

MBC adventures

Yesterday was an amazing day! I'll try to detail it as well as I can but there's a lot. I guess it makes up for today, as I don't have anything planned, haha.

Jung-ah (Jung-soo's sister) and I took the subway to Yeouido, an area in Seoul that has tons of office buildings (including broadcasting stations and the Congress building), where we met my aunt. Before meeting up with her, Jung-ah told me that the Congress building is "Seoul's biggest trash can," haha! Anyways, we met with my aunt who bought us lunch. I had 메밀국수 (which I don't know how to translate...memil noodles? Morisoba?) which was delicious. I didn't take a picture but the one below (thank you Internet) is exactly the one I had!

You add the noodles, here, to the broth, top right.

After eating, we got Belgian waffles, which seems to be the craze here in Korea. They were amazing! They looked like normal Belgian waffles but I guess the dough is special and it was kinda sticky and more sugary... Delicious, nonetheless.

We drove all the way out to a suburb of Korea, where the larger MBC building is. There, we waited around and saw a cute little history of MBC museum where they showcased old cameras and recording devices. Finally, my aunt's friend came down to show us in to the recording/live show studio. I felt so much like a VIP. During the rehearsals for Music Core, we got to stay seated while the other fans were shown out the door. Here are some good pictures before we were told we couldn't take any more...

 This is Jang Woo Hyuk recording "Time is Over." If you have back-up dancers, you're allowed to rehearse more and record your performance.

 The stage. The lines in the back are all images that are controlled by one person. She was in charge of switching the images to match the song--crazy accurate!

Some cameras. They used about seven to tape the show.

It's funny. This is supposed to be live on TV, but only some performances were. If you were more famous, it seemed, you were allowed to rehearse and get it "perfect" and just use that for broadcasting. Though, the groups that did that still performed on stage for the audience in the studio. This allowed them to improvise, which I though was great.

Anyways, it's hard to detail the order of the performances because it seemed randomized! I'll just post pictures and sort of explain them, I guess. That'll probably be easiest. Also, the pictures below were all from my phone, stealthily taken. =)

 Kim Hyun Joong. He first was successful as the lead singer in a Korean boy group SS501. He made his debut as an actor starring in a Korean drama "Boys over Flowers." Now he does his own stuff. He's a great dancer with crazyyyy fans.

 The computer with all the background images is a little hard to see...

 8eight was amazing to hear live. It's a little hard to describe their style so I just encourage you to check them out. This was their performance.

 FT Island is an indie rock type band. They were great, except there was a girl sitting two rows back that was screaming a part of the chorus as loud as possible. It felt like she was screaming in my ear... Everyone in front of her looked miserable.

 There were more pictures of groups but they didn't turn out very well. If you want to see what I saw, you can look up MBC Music Core 110625 on YouTube. Anyways, this was 2PM, a super popular boy band. Real crowd pleasers. =)

2PM, again. They were by far the best entertainers and got the audience engaged the most. Because they had recorded earlier, they were free to improvise on stage. And they did just that. They were hilarious and fun to watch.

After the show, we went "backstage" (out the doors and up a couple floors) to the dressing rooms of the performers. There were plenty of offices there too. Because we had amazing connections, we got to take a picture with all of 2PM!!! I was shaking because I was so excited, haha.

 Jung-ah is on the left. 2PM! A once in a lifetime opportunity for many. Sooo lucky I got this chance! Taecyeon, third from the right, was by far the nicest. He was acknowledging everyone involved in producing the show and thanking them. He seemed so humble compared to the rest of the group. They were all nice enough though to take a picture with us. ^^

 A sign in the bathroom. It reads, "Please don't put toilet paper in the toilet! It hurts the toilet. T_T. Signed, the toilet." I thought it was funny (referring to oneself in third person sounds okay in Korean, but weird in English). Btw, the plumbing system isn't too great in Korea so they don't want toilet paper clogging everything up.

Proof that we were behind the crazy security in the station.

After this adventure, Jung-ah and I returned home. But first, we went the wrong way on the subway. >_> Not to worry, though. Jung-ah says she frequently gets lost so she always knows how to get back, haha! We went home and shared all the pictures with the rest of her family.

We then ate Italian food at a cute little restaurant called Covent Garden and then went grocery shopping. The supermarket had three floors of parking, one floor for food, one for "home stuff," and one for clothes. It was quite incredible.

Then sleep.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Ho lee chow!

Helloooo rain. I guess I can expect a month more of this. Meh. It makes everything inconvenient.

Yesterday morning I went allllll the way back to Yonsei (it's about 1.5 hours) to go to orientation. But orientation involved picking up a packet of information, my t-shirt, and my student ID card. While this stuff is all quite important, it almost felt like a waste of a trip because of how little I had to do. However, it was good practice in how to get to Yonsei: take the subway first, then one of three buses, then walk. =)

Afterwards, Jung-soo and I went to meet her boyfriend (Tae-yoon) at Shinsegae Mall in Times Square. This mall is huge! But apparently, the largest one of these is in Busan. And that one happens to be the largest mall in Asia. Oh goodness... Here's a picture of just the cosmetics area:

The picture doesn't really do it justice, but it's all I have.

We ate lunch at a buffet with delicious food and talked a lot about cultural differences, haha. And Jung-soo and Tae-yoon got to practice their English a lot with me. Pronunciation frequently becomes a conversation topic.

Tae-yoon is going to the army in a few months. This service is required of all Korean males unless you have a disability. If you're disabled, you're required to do some duty but it's nothing like the actual military. From what I gathered, it's something along the lines of cleaning up vomit in subways and helping people get from one place to another in the stations. Sounds easy, haha. To qualify as disabled for the army, you basically have to be different. My cousin is exempt because he's too tall. Jung-soo's friend is exempt because he's missing a bone in his toe. If you skip duty, you'll be thrown in jail for 3 years. Your service would only be for 2. There is a sect of Christianity here that doesn't support war, so it encourages all its members to go to jail instead.

After eating, we went to the arcade, which had basically the same games that ones in the US do. And the price is quite similar as well. It was fun and after playing DDR, we were all sweaty. We had some iced tea afterwards and then decided to leave. The subway station, which was pretty much beneath the mall, was packed because it's also a train station. And it was around 6:00pm, which seems to be the time everyone wants to leave.

We finally got to dinner. It was a Chinese food place called Ho Lee Chow. The food was amazing. I was just glad it wasn't "Americanized Chinese food."

After that, we went for dessert at a fancy building where the apartments go for 3 billion KRW (or was it USD? I can't remember...either way, expensive). o_O So yes, we got weird looks from the table next to us when we got our cakes. But chances are, they were just drunk.

We picked up Jung-soo's younger brother up from cram school (where students basically just learn more after going to school). He goes to one in an area that's famous for having tons of cram schools. There's a law that prohibits these schools from being open past 10pm. So every cram school lets its students out then. Thus, the area is congested from about 10:00 - 10:20pm. Then, it's empty as everyone has left already. It's incredible.

Today, should be an adventure! I'm going to see my aunt, who is going to get me and Jung-soo's younger sister, Jung-ah (I don't know how she romanizes it), into a broadcasting station. =) Yipee!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Checking into the dorms

Yesterday was basically about checking into the dorms. It was raining a lot more than before. It's monsoon season and apparently it rains for about a month. -_-"

Anyways, I checked into the dorms (SK Global House) and it's super nice! The room has a private bathroom and air conditioning! It'll be very nice to live in for sure. I don't have pictures yet because it was madness trying to move in. And I didn't even move my stuff in! First, I had to go up to see what was in my room and basically check-in. But once I got up there, my key card didn't work. So I went down to get it fixed. I went up again (my room is on the 7th floor!) and checked all my items. I went down again to get my bedding (which they don't give to students ahead of time for some reason) and set up my room. On my way down, my card didn't work to go through the little gates. It was fixed again, and we had to go upstairs to make sure it worked. Gah. Finally, though, I was moved in.

We went back to Jung-soo's house and it was my first time on the bus in Seoul. It wasn't too crowded but I did have to stand for part of the journey. I felt like I could fall over at anytime. Bus drivers aren't too cautious it seems. And you really have to pay attention as it seems you could miss your stop at anytime if you don't know where you're going.

When we came back to her house, I showed Jung-soo and her sister all the cool things you could do with Facebook, haha. And, while I was showing them they were shocked to see how low-cut girls' shirts could be and how much PDA was deemed acceptable (on Facebook), it definitely highlighted the cultural difference here. Korea is fairly conservative.

Today I'm headed off to orientation at Yonsei. Then, I don't know what afterwards. I'm staying with Jung-soo until classes start because it's a lot more comfortable here. And although I want to meet people participating in YISS, I do want to get my full dose of Korean culture here. The entire program is quite segregated from the rest of campus and the rest of the city, so we won't frequently run into native Koreans or get to have a full experience, you could say. I'm actually really bummed because of this because I could have just stayed in the US if I wanted this type of experience. Hopefully I'll be able to hang out with Jung-soo more to truly experience Seoul though. =)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Raining and pouring

It's definitely the rainy season. Thus, yesterday was really low key. It's almost too hard to remember, but I went shopping and ate at the mall. Because it was raining, it wasn't the best time to take pictures. And pictures aren't allowed inside the mall, so I am thus pictureless. =(

The department stores are amazing. They have independent vendors inside, making it seem more competitive. The salespeople, like all customer service people here, are super friendly--and knowledgeable! The guy helping me pick out a shoe knew what sorts of styles to choose and which sizes were available in what shoe. Plus, he knew what was trendy, haha!

One of the greatest things here is that shoes here always come in my size. Always. My shoe size is quite popular here (225-230mm or US 5-5.5) whereas in the US it's not easy to find shoes that fit me. So I have a huuuuge selection to choose from! It's wonderful. =)

After eating lunch at the mall, Jung-soo and I came back and took a nap. >_> We were that tired. After running around on Tuesday, I guess we still didn't quite recover. I remember, the escalator out of the subway station was broken so we had to climb them all the way up. It was longer than it looked and I said it was because of all the patbingsoo we ate, haha. The subway station knew we'd have to exercise off all of what we ate.

Anyways, we were home and just ate a late dinner and watched Click. There are always American movies playing here with Korean subtitles. It's cool to see how they translate stuff, too! And I noticed myself reading the subtitles when I couldn't hear what was being said. I hope my Korean really improves while I'm here! =)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Hanging out in Gangnam

I think I'll have to blog in the mornings now. I've just been too tired at the end of the day to write about what had happened.

So yesterday, Jung-soo and I explored Gangnam. Well, it was exploring for me. She's actually quite familiar with it all. We first went and had... patbingsoo! It was huge and I can't believe the two of us finished it.

After finishing it and sharing stories about similar our dads are, we headed to the shops. While we went through a lot of stores, we didn't buy anything because it was fairly expensive. Gangnam is the richer district of Seoul for sure. They're apparently always doing construction because they have the money to do so.

Afterwards, we got 닭꼬치, which is basically a bunch of chicken on a skewer. But it was really good! It was layered in a sauce that could range from not spicy to deathly spicy. I opted for the not spicy. There's a level of spicy (a little more than halfway up the scale) that requires you to be an adult to try, haha.

We then went to a place that does those sticker photos. Just like in the US they have those photo booths you see at amusement parks and malls. But, here, you can photoshop it like crazy. I don't have a scanner so I can't show you, but here's the website that shows what people have done: Bling bling. There's a timer on machine so we ran out of time while photoshopping and we ended up taking some weird pictures because it went by so quickly! But with the help of photoshop, they turned out pretty well.

I met one of Jung-soo's friends and the three of us had dinner at Mies Container, an Italian restaurant that has the feel of a shipping container and a club at the same time... The music was loud, the waiters were yelling, the furniture was mismatched, and the utensils and plates were all metal. The food was incredible though! The pasta salad came in a giant metal mixing bowl and we had a cheesy bread/bacon dish and some fries. Pictures below.

 Me and Sarang, Jungsoo's friend. Her name literally translates to "love."

This picture was taken at a pole on the side of the street. You can email it to yourself after taking it. Super cool.

After eating, the three of us went to get MORE patbingsoo. This time it wasn't crazy big. Since I speak mainly English, everyone asks me to pronounce things correctly for them. And they're always so fascinated at how well I say things, haha. It's great.

We went home and just fell asleep. Sarang told me that she'd come home after hanging out with Jung-soo and sort of sigh. Her younger sibling (brother or sister? I forgot...) would always ask, "Did you hang out with Jung-soo today?" Haha, that's how I felt. It was a crazy day and super fun.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Prix fixe

I was planning on writing this last night, but I was so tired that I just fell asleep. =/ I guess jet lag will do that to you.

I spent most of the day relaxing. It was quite low-key since Jung-soo had a final to attend to and I needed the day to recover from jet lag. Hopefully it worked!

I went to Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU - 성균관대학교) to listen to a lecture by Nobel laureate Hideki Shirakawa. Dr. Shirakawa was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2000 for discovering and developing conductive polymers. Since his award, he has dedicated his time to innovative educational experiments rather than research, which I think is quite commendable. He shared one of his short experiments that is supposed to be used as a teaching tool and a way to engage young scientific minds. It was quite fascinating.

After his lecture, I decided to explore the campus. And with the help of my friend's dad (he's a professor at the university), I got to go to the library. Usually, anyone who isn't a student isn't allowed inside, but I was able to get in. The library was amazing! SKKU was founded in the late 1300s (what??) and was recently supported financially (sponsored?) by Samsung. That means there are a ton of new buildings--including the library!

This picture of the library was better than mine. Thank you, Internet!

I wandered around to the 5th floor, where there was a really nice café and an even nicer view. Not wanting to seem annoying/touristy, I didn't take a picture. There were plenty of students studying, too. I did manage to get a couple pictures of the views from different floors and a picture of the foyer.

After the library, I had lunch with Jung-soo's parents. It was a Japanese lunch a prix fixe and there were plenty of dishes that came out with things I didn't recognize. But it was all delicious. During lunch, Jung-soo's dad explained that Koreans were dynamic. I see this dynamism attributed to the strong nationalism present throughout the country. It's truly incredible how Koreans (in Korea) can become so united and really change their country. And it's equally incredible how they seem to unite as one voice (and perhaps covering the weaker voices...). I also think the dynamism often translates to multitasking and efficiency. Everyone who is driving is doing something else besides driving (i.e. talking on their cell phones, watching TV o_O, etc.). Perhaps that's why there are plenty of car accidents in Korea. Plus, drivers are impatient (the car horns in Korea are slightly muffled since so many people use their horn unnecessarily).

For dinner, I had a Korean dinner a prix fixe with my aunt (my mom's cousin). It was definitely some sort of theme in terms of food. That meal was waaay too big for the two of us to finish. It was intense. When I thought they had run out of food to bring, they just kept bringing out more. And then there was dessert... I also think the jet lag didn't help. My body wasn't used to eating so much food at that time (it was about 4:00 AM PST).

After I came back from dinner, I went out to get Baskin Robbins with Jung-soo as a way to cool down and celebrate her finishing her final. We probably ordered too much but got her mom to pick us up on her way back to the apartment. We had walked there and didn't realize how far it the walk back seemed quite unappealing.

Jung-soo's younger siblings were at "cram schools" (학원) so they didn't get back till late...probably some time after midnight (by then I was already asleep). This is typical of Korean middle and high school students (maybe even elementary school students?). Korean students are always studying, it seems. And they have plenty of reason to do so. During their last year of high school, students take one college entrance exam to determine where they get to attend college. Education is extremely valued here and it's not taken lightly.

Today should be a very different day, though and I'm excited! Jung-soo has planned a bunch of things so I can't wait. I included a picture of where I'm staying right now.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Arrival (finally)

The first thing I noticed is that Blogger decided to change the language to Korean since it realizes my location changed to Korea now. I guess it's good that I can read it because I'm not exactly sure how to change it back to English...

The Dyson Airblade: one of my favorite things about SFO (that I nearly forgot about!)

The flight from SFO to ICN was long and cramped. I had a window seat, which made it slightly easier for me to sleep (even though I didn't get much) and there was a nice couple sharing a row with me. First thing I learned...never fall asleep at the beginning of the flight. I woke up in time for the food but I missed the beginning of Adjustment Bureau, the only inflight movie I was remotely interested in, and nearly missed the passing out of customs forms. I guess the flight attendant thought that I was related to the couple I was sitting with so she didn't bother leaving me a form... (All Asians look the same/related?)

I expected that since this flight was international that I would have more leg room than my flight from RNO to SFO. Nope. It was the same and it was a nearly 12 hour flight!

 This, however, was ingenious. "Midnight" snack was ramen! Not the greatest taste though...

Messing with the camera settings, I captured my bright pink shoes and some artwork featured at SFO. The layover was long and my pink shoes came in handy when a friend came looking for me in ICN.

After I landed, I not only had to catch a tram to get to the baggage claim but I had to go through immigration, customs, and exchange my money. Customs, surprisingly, was the shortest. But overall, everything went smoothly. I finally got to meet someone also traveling through USAC (Jason) at the airport, pink shoes and giant backpack being my identifiers... And I met up with my friend Jung-soo (정수) and I am currently staying at her house as I wait for the dorms at Yonsei to open. Her family is great and the hospitality is superb. I'm sort of wishing that I could just stay at her house for the entirety of my stay, haha!

I got settled into Jung-soo's house and after eating dinner, her parents, sister, and I went out for a walk (I need to beat the jet lag) around the area. Jung-soo unfortunately is studying for a final that she has tomorrow... We went for patbingsu (팥빙수), a popular dessert in Korea made of red beans, shaved ice, various fruits, and whatever else the maker chooses to put in there (like mochi and I think there were corn flakes, the cereal kind, in mine today). It's great for the summer (see picture below - I was lame and forgot my camera, so this is from the internet).

An example of 팥빙수!

We moved down the street a little bit to what Koreans call a "Hof." It's basically a place that sells beer and delicious foods that go with the beer (anju - 안주). For Koreans, it seems it's all about the food. They have a separate menu for what goes well with alcohol. What makes the "hof" (it was spelled "hof" on the sign...) special is that customers eat outside in plastic chairs and tables. Really. Those plastic chairs and tables are it! You frequently see Korean movie scenes set in places like this... This little outing really helped me beat the jet lag. I haven't slept for about 20 hours and I think I should be on Korean Standard Time soon.

Tomorrow, I'm planning on having a chill day as I adjust to the time change. And, it's super hot and humid here. I feel like I'm gonna die, no joke. Just sitting here makes me sweat.